The Importance of Healthy Snacks for Toddlers
After a year of pandemic parenting, with kids and parents home more often, you may feel that you are feeding your kids all the time! The process of meal preparation, eating time, and cleanup, is like a never-ending cycle. However, offering healthy snacks for toddlers between meals provides nutrients and energy for your kids’ growing bodies and keeps them full until the next meal. Just imagine: everyone is happy and playful until the next meal time, your kids eat well at mealtimes, and you do not hear any begging for more snacks all day. I am here to help you learn the basics of building healthy snacks for toddlers! These tips work for big kids too!
Kids Eat Frequently
Children need to eat frequently because they are growing and developing rapidly. Similarly, this growth requires energy. Children require feedings about every 2 to 3 hours, which can amount to 5 or 6 times per day. This usually balances out as 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks per day.
Moreover, every child is different, and nutritional and energy needs may vary. For instance, some kids may prefer to eat more often while others are happy to play and may forget about their hunger. Keep in mind that growth and development milestones may affect toddler eating as well. In particular, you may notice that your child seems ravenous some days and other days prefers not to eat as much. All of this is normal!
Division of Responsibility
According to Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility in Feeding, as a parent, it is your job to provide the food at meal and snack times and it is your child’s responsibility to eat and decide how much. This allows your child to develop and understand their hunger and fullness cues. These are important skills to learn and will help your child develop a healthy relationship with food and mealtimes.
To learn more details, check out the full article I wrote on the Division of Responsibility.
Equally important, it is important to keep a schedule for meals and snacks. In fact, it is helpful if the schedule is predictable so that your kids know what to expect at certain times of the day. Having set times to eat meals and snacks can help ensure that your children eat well when they are hungry, recognize when they are full, and decreases the chance that they will continually ask for snacks.
How to Create Quick and Easy Healthy Snacks for Toddlers
In this guide, I will show you how to create quick and easy healthy snacks for toddlers so that they stay full, and you are not constantly hearing requests for more snacks!
Main Food Groups
To begin with, let’s quickly review the main food groups:
- Fruits: whole fruit, fruit juice
- Vegetables: variety of fresh whole vegetables, beans and peas
- Grains: whole grains, refined grains
- Protein foods: seafood, meat, poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and soy
- Dairy: milk, yogurt and cheese
Fruits, vegetables and grains provide energy in the form of carbohydrates. Choose whole grains most of the time. Carbohydrates, protein and fat provide the building blocks for a healthy eating pattern. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises consuming a healthy eating pattern containing all food groups and limiting added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium.
Tips for Creating Healthy Snacks for Toddlers
My main tip for creating healthy snacks for toddlers is to combine two food groups to create a snack. For instance, pairing bread or toast with peanut butter or other nut butter combines a whole grain carbohydrate with a healthy fat that also contains plant protein. Moreover, this combination will give your child quick energy from the carbohydrates and the fat, protein and fiber will help keep them full and give them longer lasting energy to draw from until the next mealtime. In addition, remember to offer water at snack times or between meals and snacks to help keep your kids hydrated too!
Ideas for Healthy Snacks for Toddlers
To demonstrate, here are some foods that combine well for quick and easy healthy snacks for toddlers:
- Fruit + nut butter
- For instance, you can serve fruit on a plate with a dipping bowl or arrange on a platter with the nut butter drizzled on top of the fruit.
- Vegetable + hummus
- Similarly, a simple dip option is fast for the hummus. Rather, this could be a meal appetizer, with sliced vegetables arranged on a platter paired with different hummus flavors.
- Fruit or vegetable + cheese
- Keep it interesting and vary the cheese types! For example, string cheese and single serve cheese rounds are great for on the go. Keep it simple by using sliced or block cheese cut into cubes. Alternatively, make it fun and arrange a kebob skewer alternating fruit, vegetable and cheese.
- Indeed, fruit and nut muffins are great options for adding nutrients to snacks. In fact, when you make a batch, freeze half for another week!
- Similarly, bars can be a quick and easy healthy snack for toddlers, whether store bought or homemade. Coupled with combining a fruit and grain like oats and raisins, there are many possible combinations.
- Yogurt and granola
- In fact, greek yogurt provides a good source of protein. In addition, yogurt can work well for breakfast, especially sprinkled with granola on top for a winning combination!
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Simple and effective combinations like this are helpful to have on hand when you need a quick and healthy snack for toddlers. Accordingly, you can combine items from your pantry or find a packaged trail mix that meets your needs.
- Smoothies offer countless ways to combine fruits or vegetables with dairy (milk or yogurt) for a simple combination. Nut butters often fit well in smoothies! Smoothies can be quick too. For instance, if you have a few minutes to throw frozen berries, a banana and Greek yogurt into a blender, you’ll have a healthy snack for toddlers in a whirl!
- Pita + avocado spread (or avocado toast)
- This combination can be served a few different ways: whole grain pita wedges dipped in avocado spread for your dipping fanatics; served flat with avocado slices; or top mini flatbread rounds with luscious avocado spread. In fact, sprinkle a little Everything But the Bagel seasoning on top for an added layer of flavor!
- Hardboiled egg plus toast
- Keep hardboiled eggs in your fridge for a quick and easy healthy snack for toddlers. Paired with whole grain toast or crackers and you will be all set!
- Toast with peanut butter or nut butter
- A classic combination of whole grain toast topped with creamy peanut butter is truly a winner in our house. We cut the bread into diagonals for triangle pieces!
It is important to realize that some foods are choking hazards for children up to 2 years old such as peanut butter, nuts, whole pieces of raw fruit or vegetables, some crackers or hard granola. With this in mind, make sure you are preparing foods appropriately for your child.
In Summary: Healthy Snacks for Toddlers Are All About Combinations
To sum up, now you know the important aspects of a healthy snack for toddlers! The next time you are wondering what to offer for snack time, remember to pair two food groups together and you’ll have a winning combination for a healthy snack for toddlers!
If you are looking for an easy guide, download my FREE resource: Healthy Snacks for Toddlers and Kids!
What is your favorite snack combination?
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (November 9, 2020). How much and how often to feed. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/foods-and-drinks/how-much-and-how-often.html
 Ellyn Satter Institute. (2019). Division of Responsibility in Feeding. https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/the-division-of-responsibility-in-feeding/
 Chang, S., Koegel, K. (December 4, 2019). Back to Basics: All About MyPlate Food Groups.https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2017/09/26/back-basics-all-about-myplate-food-groups